Designing forgiveness interventions: guidance from five meta-analyses

J Holist Nurs. 2015 Jun;33(2):161-7. doi: 10.1177/0898010114560571. Epub 2014 Dec 8.


The Nursing Interventions Classification system includes forgiveness facilitation as part of the research-based taxonomy of nursing interventions. Nurses need practical guidance in finding the type of intervention that works best in the nursing realm. Five meta-analyses of forgiveness interventions were reviewed to illuminate best practice. The only studies included were meta-analyses of forgiveness interventions in which the authors calculated effect size. Forgiveness interventions were shown to be helpful in addressing mental/emotional health. Components of effective interventions include recalling the offense, empathizing with the offender, committing to forgive, and overcoming feelings of unforgiveness. The meta-analyses showed that people receiving forgiveness interventions reported more forgiveness than those who had no intervention. Forgiveness interventions resulted in more hope and less depression and anxiety than no treatment. A process-based intervention is more effective than a shorter cognitive decision-based model. Limitations of the meta-analyses included inconsistency of measures and a lack of consensus on a definition of forgiveness. Notwithstanding these limitations, the meta-analyses offer strong evidence of what contributes to the effectiveness of forgiveness interventions. The implications of the studies are useful for designing evidence-based clinical forgiveness interventions to enhance nursing practice.

Keywords: forgiveness; health promotion; holistic nursing; intervention; meta-analysis; spirituality.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Concept Formation
  • Forgiveness / classification*
  • Holistic Nursing / education
  • Holistic Nursing / organization & administration*
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Nurse's Role / psychology*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic